The last I left this blog, I was about to board a second plane into the unknown with about £1000 and two suitcases.
I spent my last night in Florida in a hotel room on International Drive with my mom, whom I'd been arguing with non-stop since missing the initial flight, and her girlfriend, Diane.
Unable to sleep that night, I left the hotel room to walk around the cheesy, resort-style pool, an area decorated with a bunch of over-groomed palm trees, strategically lit water, and ping pong tables. I sat on a plastic beach chair, staring out at the water with a mixture of blind fear and excited apprehension. I knew I was making the right decision, terrifying as it may have been.
My mother and I managed to make nice before I went through the international terminal at the Orlando airport the next afternoon, and parted happily at the gate. Somehow, I managed to walk with composure through the boarding gate and onto the plane, right to the emergency row, where I'd spend the next eight hours chatting with my neighbor, a fun Canadian girl off to visit family, and being repeatedly bumped into by drunken first-classers wanting the toilet.
Gina met me at the airport, looking as sunny and fresh as I looked haggard and exhausted. We boarded the Heathrow tube and took it to a subdivision of Islington called Angel, where she'd recently moved in with a seemingly-normal couple comprising of a Cuban man and a German woman with a decidedly bohemian disposition. Refusing to let me nap, Gina immediately started emailing potential landlords, and pushing me to put on something warmer so we could go get dinner.
I know now that we were at the Spaghetti House in Covent Garden, but at the time, everything was just a blur of total exhaustion. I had some pasta dish I probably couldn't afford then allowed Gina to literally steer me down the street, back onto the tube, and then mercifully, into bed.
The next morning, after figuring out how to activate my timewarp of a cell phone, we started to look at apartments. What we saw ranged from the terrifying (half a room with a washing machine inside shared with four Eastern European guys), to simply uncomfortable (bedsit with an elderly gay man in a renovated council flat in Whitechapel, who had only a bathtub with no shower, and required his flatmates to also be his friends).
I'm not sure when it registered that we'd hit gold upon finding my home-to-be. It definitely wasn't an instant thing as we tentatively walked through the largest Hasidic community in Europe, even passing by a yellow house with a massive Menorah affixed to the front wall, or when we met my future landlord, a portly Hasidic man named Asher, who shook my hand, even though I was later to realize it was a taboo for him to touch the flesh of a female he wasn't related to.
The house was a duplex, half of which was used as a synagogue, particularly for Sabbath worship (which is Saturday in Jewish culture). My room was located at the top of the narrow boarding-house division, up a flight of very stereotypical crooked stairs, with red ermine carpeting that may have been there for the past hundred years.
On the top floor, we had a small kitchen with a tiny wooden table, suited for one or two people, and two bathrooms. My room came with a desk, a television, chest of drawers, and a twin sized bed with no bedding. My window faced only the roof of the adjacent house, and there was a working sink tucked behind the door with a small medicine cabinet. It was perfect.
I agreed to move in the following day.